The City of Buffalo will pay $3.25 million to two Cheektowaga sisters who suffered spinal injuries when a Police Department tow truck ran a traffic light and triggered a crash downtown four years ago.
Brigette Brzezniak will get $2.25 million under a settlement that was authorized Thursday by a Common Council committee. She was 24 at the time of the accident and a passenger in a Ford Escape when it collided with the tow truck at Seneca Street and Michigan Avenue.
Brzezniak already has undergone two surgeries with a third one coming up, said Corporation Counsel Timothy A. Ball during Thursday’s Claims Committee meeting.
Her twin sister, Kristen, who was driving the Escape will get $1 million under the settlement. She’s had four surgeries with a fifth one looming, Ball said.
The settlement is expected to be approved Tuesday by the full Council.
A jury last year awarded Brigette Brzezniak $3 million after determining the city was 100 percent liable, Ball said.
Kristen Brzezniak had filed her own lawsuit, which was scheduled to go to trial in State Supreme Court this year.
The city considered appealing the $3 million verdict. But instead, attorneys for the city negotiated a settlement with the sisters’ attorney, Michael Scinta of the Brown Chiari law firm.
The decision was a way to prevent the city from paying any further damages in the case, said Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera.
"We are 100 percent liable, and we did lose the first verdict," Rivera said during the committee meeting.
The vehicles crashed as tow truck driver Vincent J. Sorrentino, who is no longer working for the city, was returning to the police garage for his lunch break on April 22, 2013. Sorrentino, 27 at the time, was driving along Seneca Street and failed to stop at a blinking red light at Michigan Avenue, according to his written explanation.
The Brzezniak vehicle was traveling north on Michigan near the Buffalo Transportation-Pierce Arrow Museum when it slammed into the truck’s passenger side.
Brigette Brzezniak suffered cervical and lumbar injuries, according to her lawyers.
A surgeon during last year’s jury trial testified about the lumbar fusion procedure she underwent.